(This editorial has been edited and updated as of 6-28-12)

There was great joy among council majority Katzenjammers at Tuesday’s meeting. With Councilman Conaway on vacation the time was ripe for hammering him for alleged past mismanagement which they believe has brought Fillmore to near bankruptcy.

As Conaway rebutted Mayor Washburn at last week’s meeting, without the $500,000 drawn from what remains of the city’s reserve fund, we would be in much greater fiscal difficulty. Let’s hear it for past “mismanagement”.

Former council member Patti Walker paid a visit to the dais in order to expound her version of Fillmore’s recent economic disarray. She berated Conaway for alleged hypocrisy in his defense of past councils. Conaway had reminded the council majority that, far from alleged mismanagement, former councils built-up more than $2million in city reserves.

He had also pointed to a recent decision of the council to renege on a settlement agreement with the owners of El Dorado Mobile Home Park. That settlement agreement had come at the end of four years of litigation which has already cost the city $236,000. By pulling out of the negotiated agreement at the very last minute, the council majority, knowingly, is forcing the city to face more legal fees and future liability of perhaps another $500,000, money the city does not have. This lawsuit does not benefit the city at all. In the opinion of our city attorney(evaluating the trend of similar suits) the city is likely to end up losing this suit and paying hundreds of thousands in legal fees. All of the time and money will have gone for nothing, but it gives the majority a warm, fuzzy feeling.

On top of this, members Brooks, Sipes, Gonzalez, and Washburn seek to replace our city attorney who is the most successful lawyer in Fillmore history. In an inexplicable, arbitrary act Washburn called the city’s law firm and demanded that our city attorney not attend any more council meetings. No reason has been provided. Only an oblique reference to the fact that he has a personal relationship with a former city employee, who I understand is his fiancé. There is no legal restriction against such a relationship. It is widely believed that this was done at the behest of City Manager Quiring, for (again unexplained) personal reasons. With a smarmy smile Washburn questioned Conaway’s sources (he had addressed the issue in council) and alluded to a possible future explanation. As so many other actions by the council majority, this was both unwarranted and unprecedented.

Other members quickly denied any knowledge of Washburn's act, and remain mute. Is this another example of those pre-election promises of open and honest government and accountability? Washburn may be an airhead, but as appointed mayor, she is still accountable for her actions. Inquiring minds want to know why you did this, Ms. Washburn. Even Bob Stroh is waiting for an explanation.

Transitioning to a new legal firm, after 20 years, will cost the city an additional $50,000 to $100,000. Our attorney has won all the important lawsuits, has voluntarily cut his legal fees significantly, and may well end up being the low bidder among the plethora of responses from other law firms to the council's Request for Qualifications. Will even that dissuade our Katzenjammer council majority? The citizens should demand answers to the question of why Washburn acted so irrationally and why the majority is so anxious to replace our city attorney at such a critically important time. The Owens & Minor lawsuit is set to begin in January. Our attorney, Ted Schneider, has been successful in securing the contract that is likely to bring in $700,000 a year for the next 20 years. The court has agreed that this was a perfectly valid contract, without taint of fraud or other unlawful or unethical aspects. And this council wants to jeopardize the case by replacing our lead attorney after 6 years of litigation, six months before the final trial? Why?! Apparently for PERSONAL reasons.

Why all this craziness? As Councilman Brooks has famously stated, “It’s personal, - very personal.” Again, why personal? Well, Manager Quiring hates our City Attorney for inexplicable personal reasons, and she is supported in her animosity by Brooks, Sipes, and Washburn, again for inexplicable personal reasons. The city is paying the price for all this petty, expensive, personal stupidity. Washburn, Brooks, Sipes, and Quiring are playing a game – stupidity on stilts.
Talk about costly mismanagement!

Oh – then there is the ongoing effort to replace American Water as operator for our new high tech treatment plant – which they built. Breaking that contract, I understand, will cost a minimum of $600,000. It would be difficult to find another firm that understands the workings of this uniquely high-tech, award-winning, plant. Washburn’s and Walker's continual comparison of our plant with Santa Paula’s is ludicrous, as explained numerous times by experts. But then, Washburn is the one who thought we could save some construction money building the plant by skipping expensive non-reactive concrete! Gayle – just think of what we could save by eliminating re-bar!

Our council majority quickly covers this foolish stunt (sending out Requests For Qualifications) to replace American Water, by saying they only wanted to find out if it was possible. Really? Why not just read the damn contract before taking action?

By the way, the council had the unmitigated audacity to beg American Water to pay for our swimming pool’s chemicals to save money – which American agreed to do. Such appreciation!

Fillmore, if you don’t dump these idiots in November you have no one to blame but yourselves for the inevitable devastation which will follow.